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Top US official hold talks with Pak officials ahead of IMF team's visit

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Islamabad, Nov 6 (PTI) A top US State Department official Tuesday held talks with senior Pakistani officials to rebuild the strained bilateral ties and discussed regional issues and the peace process in war-torn Afghanistan.

Alice Wells, the US Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia, held delegation-level discussions with Additional Secretary (Americas) in the Foreign Office Aftab Khokhar and other senior officials and reviewed the progress made on bilateral relations.

Her visit comes a day ahead of the two-week visit by a team of officials from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to Islamabad to negotiate a bailout package for cash-strapped Pakistan.

Foreign Office spokesman Dr Mohammad Faisal said the meeting took stock of the understanding reached between the Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to "rebuild the relationship based on mutual trust and respect."

"Evolving regional situation and peace and stability in Afghanistan were also discussed. The US delegation appreciated the need to strengthen the bilateral relationship with Pakistan which was an important country of the region," said Faisal.

During the meetings, the two sides agreed to continue efforts to promote the shared objectives of peace and stability in the region.

Faisal said Pakistani side emphasised the need to diversify the relationship with particular focus on enhanced economic and trade cooperation and people to people contacts.

The US has long accused Pakistan of harbouring militant groups and offering safe havens to them to carry out terror attacks in neighbouring Afghanistan.

Ambassador Wells also met Finance Minister Asad Umar and exchanged views on economic ties, on the eve of the visit by the IMF team.

Pakistan urgently needs a capital boost to avert a looming balance of payments crisis. Foreign reserves held by the country's central bank dropped below USD 8 billion last month, raising concerns about Islamabad's ability to finance monthly import bills.

The US has cautioned the IMF against a possible fresh bailout for Pakistan's new government to pay off Chinese lenders who have invested in the strategic China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).

Faisal said that the aim of her visit was to follow up on discussions between Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi and Secretary of State Michael Pompeo in Washington with a view to further strengthen bilateral relations.

Qureshi and Pompeo had first met in Islamabad and the meeting was encouraging enough to be followed up in Washington when Pakistan's foreign minister attended the UN General Assembly in New York.

Diplomatic sources said that Ambassador Wells would focus on efforts to reset the relations between the two nations.

Earlier, both countries had agreed that the Afghan Taliban should engage in dialogue to reach a political settlement, The News reported.

As part of this, Pakistan released a high-profile Afghan Taliban and former deputy chief Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar on Washington's request, the report said.

Baradar was deputy to the late Taliban supreme leader Mullah Muhammad Omar. He was arrested from Karachi in a joint Pakistan-US operation after reports that he was independently trying to conclude a deal with Afghan government.

Relations between Pakistan and the US are under stress due to allegation that Islamabad was not doing enough to curb terrorism and to bring Taliban to the negotiating table.

But lately new efforts have been launched to improve the trust level after Pompeo visited Islamabad in September.

Last month, the US special envoy Zalmay Khalilzad also visited Pakistan before flying to Doha, Qatar where he reportedly held talks with the Taliban representatives. PTI SH AMS AKJ AKJ

Disclaimer: This story has not been edited by BW staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.

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